Will the next victims of computer hackers be motorists?
The risk is real, not only possible but plausible, given the vulnerability of the 250 million or more cars, trucks and buses currently operating in the U.S. alone, all computer-controlled to a significant degree.
“Wherever there is a computer, there is a threat,” Chris Preuss, president of General Motors Co.'s OnStar operations, tells Ward's.
“It's a big threat,” agrees Phil Magney, vice president-Automotive Practice at Minnetonka, MN-based telematics and electronics consultant iSuppli. “The automotive systems will be vulnerable if measures are not taken.
“It is not a question of if, it is a question of when something happens, and it could be bad.”
Industry insiders say a recently released study, “Experimental Security Analysis of a Modern Automobile,” compiled by two teams of computer scientists at the University of California San Diego and the University of Washington, is an accurate assessment of vehicle vulnerability.
In a series of experiments performed for the study, the university teams demonstrated the relative ease with which anyone with computer savvy can bypass the rudimentary security protection of a vehicle's computer network and, as the study puts it, “adversarially control a wide range of automotive functions and completely ignore driver input.”